Thursday, September 23, 2010

Honing In On: Nature (Or, Birds, Bees, Nests and Twigs Fall Under Angie Renfro’s Spell)

You probably know by now that we Huffingtons never miss an opportunity to brag about our artists…all of them work so hard and fill our days with such beauty and inspiration, so when something marvelous happens, we all like to crow!

This month, we’re thrilled to boast about Angie Renfro who just scored a lovely write-up in American Art Collector. Of course, we’re not surprised considering that Angie’s tenderly painted work seldom stays long on our walls.

compressed you'd still be here_HH_24x24 Angie Renfro’s paintings are softly painted, tender – and a little nostalgic.(“You’d Still Be Here” 24 x 24)

And as timing would have it, we’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to blog about this honest and humble artist - et voila! It fell perfectly into our laps. And, to get started, here’s Huff Harrington on Angie:

It’s been a few years since Angie burst onto our horizon and we were immediately struck with two things: one, she’s an exceptionally talented artist with a gift for giving true beauty and meaning to life’s often overlooked objects that most of us miss. Second, we gravitated to her lively and fun personality – she’s got an easy-going personality and a whimsical, funny sense of humor.

sm bee 3_ME_8x8 Angie’s popular Bee series literally flew out of the gallery. We love the quirky and sweet nature of these – you can almost hear this bee buzzing happily away.(“When The Road Runs Out” 8 x 8)

Our relationship developed over time and over the internet (we know, it sounds weird, but Angie was on one side of the country and we were on the other) and we’ve never failed to be impressed with the insightful and thoughtful paintings Angie sends us. Our clients obviously feel the same way because Angie has fiercely loyal base of fans who can’t get enough of her work.

We can’t quite put our finger on the quality that is infused in her work, but it is always exceptionally heartfelt and gentle. We’ve always loved the multi-layered and transparent technique she uses that fills the paintings with a sense of airiness and space.

this necessary surrender_HH_16x16 Drips, texture and layer on layer of luscious paint. Who knew a lowly weed could be so spectacular?(“This Necessary Surrender” 16 x 16)

Now…here’s Angie on Angie:

Ann and Meg: Give us a little background on yourself and how you began painting.
Angie: It seems I've always been drawn to art. As I kid I would make my own coloring books because I was dissatisfied with the quality of the ones I had. When I was about 10 or so, my parents enrolled me in a painting class that met weekly in our teacher's converted garage. I think it was that early exposure to painting that sparked my love of it and I've been doing it ever since.

Ann and Meg: You seem drawn to things in nature – birds, bees, nests, weeds, twigs. What’s the attraction?
I'm most drawn to subject matter that is often overlooked. It's not so much about the birds as it is that birds on a telephone wires create a striking composition that often goes unnoticed. The same is true with the bees - I think insects can be really interesting and beautiful and just wanted to play with that idea.

And That Is when Her Heart Broke 24 x 24 Angie’s titles are particularly intriguing: This one is called “And This Is When Her Heart Broke”

Angie hones in on Nature’s spontaneous composition (“The Cornerless Tomorrows” 24 x 12)

Ann and Meg: How do you paint? Give us a typical hour in Angie’s studio. Is there music? Time of day? Starbucks?
I usually get to the studio around 11am. Coffee is most definitely an integral part of my painting process, though I opt to support my independent local coffee shops. I get settled in with my brushes in one hand and coffee cup in the other and start painting away. I usually listen to NPR or podcasts. I prefer listening to people talk while I'm working.


Ann and Meg: What’s the process that goes into a painting? Layers of paint and long dry-time?
I start with a layer of brightly colored acrylic paint, which varies from painting to painting. Then I sketch in the composition with charcoal. The next step is to define the positive and negative space with a high contrast layer of oil paint. After that layer dries, I work on top to refine the shapes and add color, again using oil paint.

Ann and Meg: What or whom is your art inspiration?
I find the most inspiration from stuff I see on road trips. I often find myself pulling off the road to photograph random rusty things. It takes me forever to get anywhere. I just moved to Chicago and all this new input and new environment is really exciting and inspiring.

In the American Art Collector piece, Angie says she’s “inspired by industrial landscapes at the moment.” Only Angie could take an old, beat-up and weathered factory and create pure visual poetry with it.(“The Factory” 24 x 32)

Ann and Meg: Favorite museum? Go-to painting when you’ve got artist’s block?
In San Francisco, where I just moved from, it was the DeYoung. Now that I'm in Chicago, I've got a whole slew of new museums to check out. The Art Institute is amazing. I've embarrassingly not yet been to the Contemporary Museum of Art. I seek out contemporary art when I'm feeling stuck, so I'm sure the CMA will fast become my favorite.

Ann and Meg: What most people don’t know about me…
That's a hard one...I suppose that I'm quite a nerd/artist hybrid. What I didn't mention before about the podcasts I listen to while working is that they are mostly science-based podcasts. If I had to do it all over again, I'd want to be a neurologist.

Ann and Meg: My favorite way to unwind is to…
I'm a big fan of picnics. I'll just grab a friend or two and some wine and cheese and hang out in the park. Also, I love going on long runs with my dog, Lucille.

still i wait for an answer_HH_36x12The egg looks so comfortable in that twiggy and organic nest (“And Still I Wait For An Answer,” 18 x 36)

Ann and Meg: Favorite travel destination? Why?
That's also a hard one. I suppose Spain is one of the most artistically stimulating for me. It's just so vibrant - the people, the culture, the food...It is definitely a place I'd like to live someday.

Ann and Meg: Three things you can’t live without?
Coffee, baked goods, my laptop

Ann and Meg: Favorite flower (or weed!)?
I suppose right now it is the dandelion. I just began a series of paintings of them and find them really interesting and beautiful.

The lowly dandelion finally gets some respect (“The Time It Sometimes Takes” 12 x 12)

Ann and Meg: You never leave the house without?
Lip-gloss, water bottle, snacks (I'm always hungry), sketchbook

Ann and Meg: Three words for aspiring artists:
Find your voice.

Thanks, Angie. We’re your biggest fans.

Ta Ta.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

From the Sublime … to the Ridiculous. Paris Apartment, Part X

“It sold.” Her voice sounded so drained of its usual contagious energy, I thought she just might pass out on the phone. “It sold from under us.”

I felt like I had been hit in the stomach. I couldn’t believe my ears and I kept hoping I’d heard her wrong. Of all the exciting things I had dreamed my agent would tell me in the morning, the sublime apartment selling from under me was not one that I even considered, especially after all the assurances that it was mine for the taking. “How could this happen? “ I shrieked, “I thought we were the first?”

“We were the first with Robert,” she told me, “but another agent got the keys too. He brought an offer with him and it was accepted on the spot.

And thus we plunged from the sublime to what I think of as the ridiculous way the real estate market works in Paris.

First off, the fact that there is no multiple listing service means that realtors are all competing against each other. And therefore it behooves the seller to list their apartment with more than one agent. So you never know until it happens whether another agent will undercut you in your offer. And as a result, there is no winner here: Not the buyer, the seller or the agent.

And then the whole Parisian pricing structure has completely mystified me from the very beginning. If the market is as hot as it is, and if the good properties sell for full price before they even go on the market, why don’t they just raise the prices? Instead, they group properties by “Arrondissement” and determine that all apartments in one arrondissement will sell for 10,000 euros per square meter, while another neighboring arrondissement can fetch up to 12,000 euros. But what if, like the sublime, you’re in the 3rd arrondissement, which is typically about 2,000 less than the 6th or 7th, but you’re in a great location next to the Place des Vosges, and your apartment has great bones, and is highly desirable? Wouldn’t you price it higher than the going rate, if there is more demand for that type of apartment? And what if your apartment sells to the first buyer even before it officially goes on the market, for full-price? Wouldn’t that possibly imply that it was underpriced?

I was so deflated by the loss of the sublime that I couldn’t think of anything else for days. Don’t get me wrong: I knew that this wasn’t a life sentence, or anything remotely as significant. I’ve always known that my idea of buying a pied-a-terre in Paris is a complete luxury, but it has been my dream for years, and I’ve made a lot of concessions to achieve this dream. So losing the best one that came my way was a huge loss. Nothing too serious, I realize, but still … enough hurt and sadness and loss that it has taken its toll, and a long while to recover.

And then I started wondering about the whole price thing. Perhaps I was the one who was ridiculous here, because hadn’t I agreed to pay full price for a shabby, dusty, dirty apartment that needed to be renovated from scratch and was a third floor walk up? What if, for sake of argument, I took the money I was about to throw at something sight unseen and spent it on a house that I could actually see in Atlanta? What kind of house would that buy me in Atlanta? And that led me to a very interesting comparison. Who’s being ridiculous now?


Le Sublime: Trash filled, one bedroom, needing a major facelift


And what the same dollars would buy today in Atlanta






The kitchen at Le Sublime


The kitchen at the Atlanta equivalents



The 17th century beams at Le Sublime

Sublime 6

The beams in Atlanta


The 10 foot ceilings of Le Sublime


The 20 foot ceilings in Atlanta


The “back yard” view from Le Sublime


The backyard of Atlanta


All Atlanta photos courtesy of Atlanta Fine Homes

This house, located on one of the nicest streets in the fanciest neighborhoods of Atlanta, really spoke to me (and I’ve always had a soft spot for a pool, especially onethat you can just walk out to from the main floor). And I can hear all my French friends questioning my sanity for even considering a dusty, noisy 3rd floor walkup apartment in a creaky, 17th century Parisian building in the 3rd Arrondissement, over a pristine house in perfect condition on Valley Road in Atlanta.

Here we sit in beautiful sunny Atlanta with more houses on the market than ever before and with surplus inventory for years to come. And in Paris, I can’t even be the first bid, even when I’m ready to pounce with a fulltime offer before the apartment goes on the market. Is there something wrong with this picture? Have we indeed gone from the sublime to the ridiculous?

This whole game has not been about price but about realizing a long-time dream. So no matter how beautiful a house might be in Atlanta, or Phoenix or Dallas or Boston, it’s not what I’m going after right now. In many ways, this exercise has helped me with a dose of reality. Maybe it’s time to relax a little, and let things follow their course. Le sublime wasn’t meant to be, but maybe it was meant to slow me down. Was it really worth my getting so worked up and upset over something as basic as … an apartment? Surely, there will be others. And surely, I need to get a grip on reality. Maybe even get my priorities refocused.

Maybe I need to just stop looking for awhile. Stop racing to the computer first thing when I wake up to see if any new listings popped up overnight. Stop calling my agent over every little glimmer of hope. Stop fantasizing about herringbone floors, ancient beams, and Louis XVI fireplaces, crystal chandeliers, and windows with a view. Stop thinking about the croissants, the bistrots, the cheese shops, the open parks, the organ concerts, the window shopping, the long walks along the Seine with my puppy (or hubby!). Maybe I should take a break and just stop dreaming the dream for awhile...

Or maybe not.

Stay tuned!



Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Huffingtons Love Florals!

We all have a little crush on florals around here – mostly because the ones we receive from our artists are always so exceptional. As a matter of fact, we just got our hands on one the other day that made us think about the seductive allure of the floral. Stay tuned to read about sexy florals (we know: not two words you normally use together, but we think you’ll like this, so be patient and keep reading...)

We’ve all seen florals that don’t get our pulses racing: they lie flat and lifeless on the canvas and the subjects, which were probably gorgeous and full of vitality in their vase or garden bed, have lost the bloom that made them so special in real life. In our humble opinions, there are a few key elements that bring a good floral to juicy and lush life:

Life and energy: obviously, the flowers need to seem alive and pulsating with life. Van Gogh’s Vase with Twelve Sunflowers pretty much does it for me, with its vibrancy and saturated colors. These happy Provencal sunflowers must have been picked just shortly before this was painted. (At least the sunflowers are happy, even if the artist wasn’t…) The composition is eye-catching and encourages the viewer to joyfully wander all over the canvas.

van-gogh-sunflowers-version-03 So ahead of his time: this painting is bold, powerful and permits your eye to wander happily all over the canvas

thumbnail Monsieur Van Gogh: maybe not as sunny as his sunflowers…

More life and energy: Monet’s soft and seductive Iris (1914-1917) fills the canvas with the cool tones of the irises, but bright pinpoints of light give this painting its pulse and raison d’etre. You can almost feel a gentle French breeze stirring the graceful stems and elegant heads of these flowers.

iris by claude monet Monet was a master at portraying the vitality of flowers

A Little Drama: This dark and brooding floral, painted in the seventeenth century, is heavy - the flowers seem overly full, overly bloomed and close to a sad ending. Still, despite the oppressive nature of this painting, I do find it fascinating and Mr. Vosmaer gets points for giving his flowers an over-ripe lushness. The Met must have thought so, too, because this painting is part of their permanent collection.

vosmaer Jacob Vosmaer (Dutch, born about 1584, died 1641) ca. 1613
oil on wood

Closer to home, here at Huff Harrington, we’re blessed with a number of artists who regularly paint dreamy florals that make our hearts pound. We don’t ever like to seem self-serving, but when we started looking at the wonderful and varied collection of florals we’ve seen over the years, we don’t feel at all guilty about bragging.

Exquisite Composition: Nancy Franke, of course, works from life and paints the most beautiful and serene florals. She thinks long and hard about the composition and we love the way she floats her florals so they lie delicately on the canvas. She’s gone from soft and soothing tones to more dramatic pieces, like this one:

40 x 40 Night Roses 3950 The ultimate in elegance: Night Roses by Nancy Franke. This one is so powerful in person.

And here’s a little sampling of other Franke paintings that lasted minutes on our walls:

New Year's Bouquet.jpg New Year’s Bouquet by Nancy Franke. Tightly composed and precisely rendered.

Rose Poem So rich and elegant and a little looser. Rose Poem by Nancy Franke

Roses 24 x 24.jpg Nancy’s always spontaneous and makes that work for her on the canvas. Roses.

Take One 825 10 x 10 Take One by Nancy Franke. Was this a study? We love the quick brushstrokes and expertly placed stroke of light.

A Little Excitement: The spontaneous and energetic Amy Dixon puts her own spin on florals. She’s a colorist, so the gloves are off when it comes to the palette. Her florals explode in a riot of color, a delightfully impulsive composition – and, Amy’s little twist: a decidedly modern approach to technique. She loads the canvas up with pigment and allows to drip and trickle where nature and gravity takes it. Who could possibly resist these?

Passion Lilies Passion Lilies by Amy Dixon

Our hearts also race for Jeffrey Terreson’s bold and strong florals. He punches the canvas with plenty of color and texture, so his florals are anything but delicate and dainty.

Poppies 48 x 48 low res Poppies by Jeffrey Terreson. Wow.

Some Rough Edges, Please: Angela Nesbit, who has legions of fans here at the gallery and is known to teach an excellent painting workshop, infuses her florals with an elegant simplicity, which she beefs up with bold strokes and plenty of palette knife. Her paintings don’t last long walls and it’s easy to see why:

A-Whitetulipstudy12x16.jpg White Tulips study: Nesbit’s studies are textbook perfect: loose, edgy and a little on the rough side – a perfect foil for the elegant tulips.

Give Us The Drama, Part Deux: when we last saw the lovely and refined Andree Thobaty in France, we were struck by these two florals that we had to have. Andree’s first love is abstract art, so we loved the looseness and expressiveness of these two florals. They didn’t last long and yes, they sold as a pair.

Les fleurs en blanc et noir Les Fleurs en Blanc et Noir

Pivoines Thobaty’s Pivoines

…And a Little Mystery, Too: We’re also crazy about these encaustic florals by west coast artist, Lisa Meyer Kairos. They’re so airy and translucent, as if they could simply float away on the next current of air. But make no mistake: their creation is a long and many-layered process but Meyer Kairos makes it all look so easy and effortless.

Meyer Kairos, Last Summer's Hemlock, 30x48 diptych, encaustic on panel, $4300 Last Summer’s Hemlock is delicate, airy and completely modern. By Lisa Meyer Kairos

Fleurs by Lisa Meyer Kairos

Roses by Lisa Meyer Kairos

Poppies by Lisa Meyer Kairos

These are part of the artist’s encaustic series. In person, they’re magically layered and full of little intricacies that are hard to see in a photograph. They are hauntingly beautiful.

We’d Like Ours Abstracted, Please: our quietly humble, but exceptionally gifted, floralist Gabriella Ibarra also packs a punch with her fun, whimsical and slightly zany florals. We love the mishmash of subjects, the strong and fearless use of color and the bold shape of the petals. These are not your typical wallflowers.

untitled 8 Late Roses in White Urn

untitled 2 Dahlias & Lemons

Ta da…The Grande Finale: So, we know you’re dying to know about the sexy floral. It was brought to us by Lorraine Christie, an artist who is completely able to infuse her work with almost tangible elements of emotion, feeling and passion.. Her capacity for bringing her subjects to pulsating, quivering life is awe-inspiring and we’ve seen her work her magic on flowers, fruits, crystal vases, silver plates and, of course, humans. She brought us this shimmery painting and we all gasped:

Such Fleeting Perfection 30 x 24 Such Fleeting Perfection by Lorraine Christie

Somehow, through tricks of creating luminosity, depth, contrast and tremendous range in value, Christie pulls off the ultimate floral: it’s sexy!

So, we question ourselves: what’s so seductive about this? And we all quickly answer: full-blown petals that look like they’re waking up last night’s party; a moody palette that is sharp and clear in some spots, but a little muddy and beautifully dark in others; the elegantly painted reflection of water in vase (or vase on table or whatever it is that Lorraine is reflecting…pure magic); the overall lushness and sense of abundance that permeates her work. Drool, drool.

More sexy florals from Lorraine:

New Roses 24 x 20 New Roses

Golden Roses II 20 x 24 Golden Roses, II

We summarize our thoughts about the flower in art: in all its heavenly incarnations, it can be dramatic, edgy, elegant, whimsical and sexy. We love it on the canvas, in the vase, in the garden…and especially on our walls.



Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hunting for the Paris Apartment, Part IX - From the Sublime


I got a call from my agent. “I’m on to something,” she said, “and it is sublime. As soon as it comes on the market, you’ll want to act immediately.”

Sublime 4

I know, I know. Paris property is so hot that the good ones go even before they even come on the market. In fact, if it appears on the internet, it usually means that it’s overpriced or undesirable, because everything else sells to a long list of private buyers. I was lucky on this one, though. My agent assured me that she would be the first to see it as soon as the selling agent had the key.


The few photos she sent had me jumping with excitement, and I immediately googled the area, counting the steps from the chunky old front door to the sumptuous Place des Vosges. I flipped out over the high ceilings, the elegant 17th century building, the gorgeous beams and floors, the four-paned windows and the rustic wall beams that are the signature of so many buildings in the beautiful Marais. Through google, I ogled the view from the windows, measured the distance across the street, visited every storefront on the rue de Turenne, and eyeballed the angle of the sun. I imagined the dirty floors cleaned up and decorated sumptuously in the style of the Marais and in keeping with the building’s pedigree: Formal Louis XV mixed with some modern glam to reflect building’s the austere 17th century elegance and its rustic complement.

We didn’t have the key in hand but this apartment already had the key to my heart. I was falling in love with the sublime. In my mind, it was mine and I was dreaming of its facelift:

Sublime 1

Would the living room be transformed from this to the beauty, below?

sublime reno4 Courtesy Haven in Paris

Photo Haven in Paris


Would the rough hewn wall beams above morph into the elegance below?


Photo, above, Haven in Paris

Sublime 3 And would the bedroom through the doorway (look how small the door is compared to the high ceilings!), end up like this:


Photo (above) Haven in Paris

trans21_4_202_468_9820_1_4 And finally, would the sweet little kitchen gain soft sophistication, like this?

Photo Haven in Paris

“So when are you getting the keys?” I asked, barely able to contain my excitement, after decorating every imaginary room, and trying to hide my growing impatience. “Soon,” I was assured. “Don’t worry; you’ll be the first.”

When my agent called on Friday evening to say that she was getting the keys the next day, I was just about ready to burst. It’s unusual for a Parisian realtor to work on Saturdays, but mine is American and she does things a little differently. “I’ll call you from the apartment,” she said, at 11 p.m. her time. “I promise! I’ll be there when you wake up.” We agreed to a full-price offer, sight unseen, because I knew that this one was worth it, and it was the only way to secure the first bid.

When the phone rang at 8 a.m.on Saturday, I’d already been out for a walk with the dog and a workout at our clubhouse. I had eaten a full breakfast and read the entire N.Y. Times. I was starting a load of laundry and working on my taxes, just to keep myself from bursting with anticipation. One of the things that I’ve loved about my agent is that she gets it like I do. She sees the beauty in the old and knows just how to transform it. No wall is too solid and no task is too daunting for her. Every detail is important and we can spend hours on the phone discussing the door knobs, coat hooks or the shape of an oval window. I knew she’d give me a full report and I couldn’t wait for all the nitty gritty details: Were the floors all gorgeous? Were the beams aged to perfection? What about the courtyard? What were the common areas like? How high were the ceilings? Where was the bathroom? What was the angle of the sun?

And of course the question I was most anxious to have answered: When will the sublime soon be mine?

Stay tuned for next week, “From the Sublime … part deux”